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The Democratic Party Continues to Ignore Its Voters

Especially Women, People of Color, and Young Voters

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

According to the latest Harvard-Harris poll, a majority of Democratic voters oppose Democratic Party leadership and feel that the party has not moved far enough to the left.  52% of Democrats polled say they support movements within the Party to take it further to the left, with the strongest support for such measures coming from women (55%), Hispanic (65%), Black (55%), and Democratic voters ages 18-34 (69%).  

As was true throughout the 2016 campaign season, this latest poll indicates that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump remain the two most disliked politicians in the country, with Clinton remaining less favorable among voters than Trump.

Conversely, Bernie Sanders has maintained his title as the most popular politician in the country, and has even managed to become more popular among Clinton voters, than Clinton herself.  The Vermont Senator’s favorability rating currently stands at 77% among Black Democratic voters, 66% among Hispanic voters, and 66% among all Democratic voters ages 18-34.  

Given Democratic voter’s overwhelming support for Sanders, his policies, and for moving the Party to Left, DNC Chair Tom Perez’s move to purge Progressives from the DNC last week, and replace them with Clinton-allies, corporate lobbyists, and  Primary cheater Donna Brazile felt like retaliation against the party’s progressive base. 

As reported by NBC, those pushed out included:

Ray Buckley, the New Hampshire Democratic chairman and longtime DNC official who ran against Perez for chair before backing Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn. Buckley lost his spots on the Executive Committee and DNC Rules Committee.

James Zogby, the president of the Arab American Institute and prominent Sanders backer, is no longer co-chair of the Resolutions Committee and is off the Executive Committee, a spot he has held since 2001.

Alice Germond, the party’s longtime former secretary and a vocal Ellison backer, who was removed from her at-large appointment to the DNC.

Barbra Casbar Siperstein, who supported Ellison and Buckley, was tossed from the Executive Committee.

While DNC superdelegates have always been a bone of contention for the party’s progressive wing, it became an especially explosive issue during the 2016 Primary when superdelegates lined up behind Clinton early on, at times, against the will of voters in their districts. In fact, Sanders supporters rallied to end the practice, which is in full control of the DNC, ahead of last year’s Democratic National Convention.

Therefore, Perez’s appointment of active and former corporate lobbyists as at-large members seems to be an especially egregious move for a party that claims it’s seeking unity with its grassroots progressive base.  Nevertheless, in typical fashion, the DNC simply brushed off progressive complaints, and levied a torrent of “diversity” rhetoric to cover some of its more controversial nominees.  

DNC spokesman Michael Tyler:

“This year’s slate of at-large DNC member nominees reflects the unprecedented diversity of our party’s coalition…doubles millennial and Native American at-large representation, provides unprecedented representation for our allies in the labor community, and increases the presence of Puerto Rican at-large members at a time when the Trump administration refuses to take responsibility for the millions of Americans who are still suffering through a major humanitarian crisis.”

Of course, Tyler’s claim that the DNC was seeking to increase the “presence of Puerto Rican at-large members” is somewhat laughable.  For example, while Manny Ortiz does lobby for Puerto Rican interests, he is also a lobbyist for CITGO Petroleum Corp and Citigroup Management Corp. These so-called diversity expanding and unity building moves also included adding Joanne Dowdell, a lobbyist for Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, as well as, Jaime Harrison, a former lobbyist for coal, tobacco, and banks.

Cloaking the Party’s corporate interests in a veneer of diversity didn’t stop there.

However, former senior adviser to Sanders’ 2016 campaign Becky Bond, warns:

“The DNC is spinning it as being about diversity and focusing on at-large, but we know the real power is with the committees…The rules committee is where recommendations from the unity committee go. That’s where the grassroots of the party…are being retaliated against, and that’s where you need to look if you want to see if Perez is really trying to unify the party, or consolidate power for the Clinton wing of the party.”

And, as the former digital organizer for Sanders’ campaign, Claire Sandberg notes:

“I think Tom is putting Keith in a tough spot. He’s been working in good faith to convince grassroots progressives not to give up on the Democratic Party and its institutions. But that will be a much more difficult task now.”

Sandberg is absolutely right. Once again, the Democratic Party is more concerned with optics than it is with actual change. The selection of a “diverse” group of corporate lobbyists will not engender trust among the voters the party needs to win elections. There can be no unity with a party that ignores the wants and needs of its voters, one that refuses to acknowledge its long-standing failures, and embarrassingly, one whose jejune response to last year’s loss indicates that it either has no interest in, or is not capable of, change.

Hillary Clinton did not lose in 2016 because of foreign interference, and Democratic voter’s issues with the party have absolutely nothing to do with Donald Trump. Let’s be real, if a $1.2 billion dollar campaign was upended by a few $100k in Russian advertising and internet trolls, the entire country needs to take a long hard look at our institutions and begin demanding immediate reforms across education, media, national security, our intelligence community, campaign funding and advertising, national security, not to mention the NDAA, which legalized the use of propaganda on US citizens, and any number of other fundamental institutional failures that would have had to occur to allow for such a widespread breach in critical thinking among the electorate.

But of course, that isn’t the case, it wasn’t Russia. Clinton lost because she underperformed in critical States and failed to turn out voters. In 2012, Black voters in Ohio turned out at a rate of 72%, in 2016, black voter turnout fell to 62%. Similar results were found in both Michigan and Wisconsin. Why?  Because voters have lost faith in the party. To many, it simply doesn’t matter who is in power, because neither party fights for the things they need.

Working America’s Front Porch Focus Group canvassed hundred of registered voters earlier this year and found that Black voters are demoralized about the economy, politics, and Democrats

Carol, 55… “I was laid off of my job of 30 years … and I can’t find anything.” Though she voted, she doesn’t blame people who didn’t. “They don’t see anything around them change. [Politicians] promise things and nothing happens. … You have to ask yourself, ‘Does it even matter?”

Vance, 47…“Politicians are all the same. They’re not gonna look out for us.” Vance had been a community organizer, but, “I’ve given up. … [Politicians] don’t care about the poor people.”

Briant, 53…“You get paid, you pay your bills, your rent, you buy what you need, and then you’re broke until the next check and you repeat. You know the poor people ain’t never going to get ahead as long as we’re spending all our income on just the basics.”

Democrats weren’t listening in the run-up to the 2016 election, and they aren’t listening now. Rather than doing the right thing, they continue to try to game their voters, casting their actions as diversity and unity building, and deflecting from their failures while offering no leadership, and no platform.

Every day the Democratic Party pushes the ongoing Russia investigation, an investigation that 63% of Americans feel is doing more harm than good, it effectively tells its voters it doesn’t give a shit about their economic stress, health, or their concerns about the future.  Every day that the party pushes the narrative that anti-corporation, anti-pipeline, and Black activists are pawns who have been duped by the Russian government, it shows its voters that it doesn’t give a shit about economic, social, environmental, or political reforms.

Democrats cannot win when voter turnout is low, and voters with nothing to vote for will continue to stay home.  Above all else, 2016 was a referendum on the status-quo and the Democratic establishment. For more than a year polling has continued to show that what Democratic voters favor, is the Independent Senator from Vermont, and the policies he’s been advocating for decades.  If the Democratic Party doesn’t abandon its current course, and begin to forcefully push an economic agenda that serves working-class voters, they are doomed to fail again in 2018 and 2020.  After all, they are elected to represent their voters, if they won’t, what good are they?

Written by Beth Lynch

Mother, advocate, activist, academic, unapologetic Feminist and Progressive. Beth is a Writer for Progressive Army.
Follow Beth on Twitter @BethLynch2020.

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  1. bullshit. this site is GOP run. Sanders would never win Pres. Trump’s racists and Nazis will swarm out and vote against a Jewish Easterner.

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